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Game-maker with positive message nominated for ATOM award

A Victoria University graduate in computer game development is a finalist in the 2010 Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) awards for professional and student producers of film, television and multimedia.

Layton Hawkes, 22, of Kew, was nominated for best interactive/video game and best tertiary multimedia production for his game, 'Gemma and the Living World.' Layton created the game over  six months as part of his Diploma of Games Development with the University's School of Creative Industries.  

His work is part of a growing trend of "art games" that consider environmental, moral and emotional issues as part of game play. The protagonist journeys from a polluted, consumerist society to a new world beginning to suffer the same fate. Through players' decisions and actions, she tries to eradicate the problems and restore the world to its natural state. 

"I'm interested in how games can be used to provide positive messages and comment on today's issues," he said. "Developers can wield a lot of power through interactive games, and it's important to take that power and use it responsibly."

While Layton says moral principles are important in his games, he ultimately designs from a player's perspective, ensuring his work is entertaining enough to "make players say 'wow'," he said.

Layton developed his gaming interest in the early 1990s, playing titles such as Jazz Jackrabbit and Commander Keen with his dad, also a games enthusiast.

He enrolled in VU's games development diploma in 2008 to obtain skills in the art, programming, and design of computer games.

"The VU program went over many aspects involved in this business and allowed me to solidify what I want to do in future," he said.

Layton is now enrolled in a VU Bachelor of Arts in professional writing, which he hopes will build on his skills as a developer. Long-term, he aspires to work in the US or Canada, the headquarters for game development companies that focus on the positive storytelling aspects he's interested in.   

For now, he's thrilled with his ATOM nomination. He will find out at a ceremony at the Regent Theatre on 22 October if he's a winner.

"It's gratifying to see your work is recognised and valued, especially when it's semi-experimental." 

Layton Hawkes is available for interview on 0401 333 786.

Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487; mobile:  0403 556 001; email: annmarie.angebrandt@vu.edu.au

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